20 Ways to Cope with Stress
Are you struggling with anxiety or stress?
Treatment for anxiety or stress may include individual therapy (ex. Mindfulness, CBT, DBT, ACT, Expressive Arts Therapy), group therapy, and/or couples or family therapy, medication, nutrition, and self-help coping skills. There is no single treatment that works for every person. Some individuals find that doing yoga every day is the cure for them. Others find participating in a support group or in therapy is most helpful. Whichever path you take in treating anxiety (most often- therapy and/or medication), discovering and committing to practicing self-help coping skills on a regular basis can empower you to realize your innate ability to heal yourself.
This list of self-help coping tools is based on: Stress can really get on your nerves by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick (a witty book written for middle schoolers with the wisdom for adults). If you’re in need of a quick read (15-30 minutes) and want ideas for solutions, this book is an excellent resource.
1. Breathe Deep
Imagine your breath is like a wave that washes your stress out to sea. If you still feel lost when it comes to breathing techniques, here’s a super easy one that is guaranteed to calm even the most stress-filled candidate:
Breathe in for three (slow) counts, hold for three counts, out for three counts, hold for three counts. Repeat. And again. And again. Until you feel a calm in your body.
2. Listen to Soothing Music
What we hear around us has a strong effect on how we feel. Ever notice when you’re angry you might want to listen to something loud? And when you’re sad, something quiet and wistful? To soothe stress, try listening to calming sounds. Try making a Pandora station based and let it play in the background of your day.
3. Express Your Feelings
Expressing your feelings is healthy, versus keeping them bottled up, which causes more stress! While keeping a focus on healthy ways to express your stress (no yelling at yourself or lashing out at friends!), try “I” statements: “I feel ______ when you ______. I would appreciate you _____ (instead or in the future).”
Release the extra energy that stress produces in your body. If you don’t it collects as stressful hormones that can cause long term health, weight, and mental struggles. Don’t feel like you have to run five miles. Start with a walk around the block or a mini-exercise routine on YouTube.
5. Expand Your Creativity
Draw, play a musical instrument, sing, or do something else creative. These types of activities activate the right side of the brain, which can simultaneously quiet the over-thinking (but well-intentioned!) left side of the brain.
6. Enjoy Your Hobby
Get into “the flow” of doing something you truly enjoy and forget about your worries. Need helping finding a new hobby? If you are a teen, check out your school’s and/or local recreation center/cultural center’s list of extra-curricular activities and try one. Sometimes the only way to know if you’ll enjoy an activity is to experience it. This article on Bustle has a lot of great ideas for adults as well.
7. Read a Good Book or Watch a Movie
An easy enough suggestion, but take the time to find something worthwhile. Or something light and easy to process. A temporary escape from reality.
8. Eat a Healthy Diet & Get Enough Sleep
One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself. The basic building blocks of life are food and rest. If you aren’t getting both of those in a healthy form, it could be contributing to your stress levels.
9. Get Organized
Organization can be a bear for some people. Piles of mail, an overflowing “junk” closet, and a to-do list that never seems to be less than 30 items. Take time to organize the physical items in your life. Take an afternoon and tackle the hardest project. Get rid of anything that isn’t essential or doesn’t give you any joy. For help and advice organizing your closet, check out Marie Kondo’s book, The life changing magic of tidying up.
10. Pinpoint the Causes of Your Stress
This will help you find solutions that will best fit your situations. Mentally beating yourself up doesn’t work, so don’t waste time thinking of what could have been. Use your time thinking of what can now be.
11. Forgive Your Mistakes
You are human and every single human on the planet makes mistakes. Even big ones. Take this time to see what you will gain from the mistake you made. Maybe it’s a new perspective on life. Maybe it’s a change you’ve needed but could never manage otherwise. Or maybe it’s simply the lesson you learned. Consider Googling meditations on self-forgiveness.
12. Simplify Your Life by Prioritizing
Having too much on your agenda – friends, activities, and chores – can be overwhelming. Give yourself a break, even if it’s just a few days. See how much you can relax when you don’t have the “shoulds” of life pressing on your shoulders. If you’re not sure what to let go of, take time to meditate, lie in svasana, walk, talk out loud, or journal to see what comes up as most important in your life.
13. Laugh It Up
Experts say laughter reduces stress, but there are times when laughing can be difficult. Here is when I urge you to take some time on YouTube and search out funny videos. Cute animal compilations and late night talk show segments are always a hit. Find things that don’t have a relationship or life-stress angle, just plain old humor. Watch until at least one corner of your mouth goes up!
14. Breathe + Imagine
In addition to to the breathing technique mentioned in tip #1, you can also incorporate belly breathing and peaceful imagery as an easy escape.
15. Nurture Yourself
What feels nurturing for you? Is it getting a massage? Taking a bubble bath with Epson salts? Taking a walk in nature by yourself? Lying on your bed and listening to your favorite music? Cuddling with your pet? Allow yourself to do whatever feels nurturing for you at least once a week.
16. Form & Use Your Support System
Reach out to your family, friends, and trusted adults to help clear your mind. Be sure to ask for what you want from them – suggestions on how to solve your issue or just a place to vent.
17. Try to Take Some Alone Time Every Day
Consider investing in yourself by committing to relaxation practices such as yoga, breathing, meditation, or reading something inspirational or encouraging. I know it can be so difficult, especially if you are juggling family and work. Even just 5 minutes a day can make a difference. To really make a difference and not feel rushed, try waking up 20 minutes earlier than others in your home to do one of the above activities and see how you feel.
18. Break Down Huge Tasks
Bigger tasks can often be broken down into smaller chunks. Take the biggest task from #9 and map out each step to get it accomplished. Do the smallest steps first and you’ll see how much easier getting past the finish line will become.
19. Work on Your Self-Esteem
Now it’s time to focus on your strengths and develop accurate thoughts about yourself. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What makes you feel a warmth in your heart? Also, what are the inaccurate, self-limiting beliefs that you need to unlearn and rewrite into accurate, supportive beliefs about yourself. We can become the author of our life once we decide it’s our perception of ourselves that matters most. Breaking the chain of low self-esteem by Marilyn Sorensen is an excellent book if you enjoy self-help books.
20. Positive Self-talk
This is probably one of the biggest challenges of most peoples lives. Once you have started working on your self-esteem, you may notice there is still a critical voice in your head that wants to tell you what you aren’t and what you can’t do. Now is the time to be your own loving parent. Every time that voice comes along, tell yourself “I love myself as I am” and switch the channel. Over and over again. Just like you would to a small child you love unconditionally.